Saturday, April 23, 2011

On Second Thought -- Plotting Trendlines for Big East Teams (pt 3)

Are Slumps Inevitable?
While even Top 5/10 teams seem to hit a point in the season where their performance seems to be below their usual level, will that slump produce a noticible "dip" in their offensive efficiency or a "rise" in their defensive efficiency (signs of a regession in their efficiency)? For Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, the answer in 2011 remarkably was no...neither appeared to register a detectable (per a third order polynomial trendline) regression in their efficiencies. The key is that while each lost multiple games (seven between in total between them), only Notre Dame managed to lose two consecutive games -- to Marquette (79-57) on 1/10 and to St. John's (72-54) on 1/16. Those two, double-digit losses account for neither lost The conference standings/seeds for the Big East Tournament:

Notre Dame1440.776
St. John's1260.667
West Virginia1170.611
Seton Hall7110.389
South Florida3150.167

(3T #4) Louisville

They worked though the slump early...

The roster Coach Rick Pitino started the 2011 season with could not have been the one he envisioned the preceding April/May. If the Cardinals struggled with an uncertain roster and freshmen playing crucial roles in the offense, the offensive surge through the last half of conference play, coupled with the nearly season-long improvement in defense suggested they were poised for another deep post season run. Louisville finished with a 12-6 conference record and a bye seed. They used the bye to run to the BET Championship Game, losing by three, 69-66, to Connecticut. Their opening round loss to Morehead State, 62-61, six days later was shock and had to be, to the Cardinal Nation, an especially disappointing end to their season. Attributing that faltering finish to Rakeem Buckles' season-ending ACL injury in the Pittsburgh game (#16 on the chart above) maybe be tempting, but inconsistent offensive production from Peyton Siva, Preston Knowles and Kyle Kuric (those three combined for 21 points on 7-23 shooting in Louisville's loss to Morehead State) and freshmen "burnout" of Gorgui Dieng, coupled with season-long uneven contributions from the front court returning contingent is probably a more accurate assessment.

(2 #2) Notre Dame

The offense steadily improved?!

Though the Irish lost four conference games, including three (to Syracuse and two in a row to Marquette and St. John's) in the first third of the season, they were one of two teams -- conference regular season champion Pittsburgh was the other -- whose offensive efficiency trendline never dipped below their defensive efficiency trendline. Despite the three early losses (double-digits, all three) Notre Dame's offensive efficiency improved at a rate sufficient (and a glance at the trendline suggests a constant rate as well) to keep their offensive trendline above their (at that point...) regressing defensive trendline. That offensive caught my eye because it appears to be a nearly continuous rate of improvement (a kind of season-long opposite of Villanova's season-long offensive decline) through the entire conference season. The range of improvement is truly unusual, rising from a 101/102 range at the start of the conference season to finish above 120 (122/123?) by the end. And that rate was adjusted for the competition. If Coach Mike Brey's offensive efficiency is impressive, the rising defensive efficiency through the last third of the conference season may well have provided a hint of the problems that ended Notre Dame's season. Drawing a #2 seed in the Big East Tournament, the Irish could not stop Louisville in the semi-finals, falling by six points after an overtime period on Friday night. A #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament should have given them an easier path to the Swee Sixteen, but a cold shooting night versus Florida State (coupled with an 114.2 defensive efficiency in that 62 possession game...) 71-56, in the second round.

(1 #1) Pittsburgh

The gap between defensive efficiency and offensive efficiency was promising...

Coach Jamie Dixon's squad also registered an offensive trendline that stayed above the defensive trendline all season long, despite losing three games on their way to a #1 seed in the Big East Tournament. Strong, consistent defense managed to help the Panthers weather a mid season offensive slump that bottomed out with Ashton Gibb's injury (and absence through games #11 through #13). Talib Zanna's season-ending injury (he missed the last four games of the regular season and Pittsburgh's three post season games) was not the cause of Pittsburgh's early exit from the BET and NCAAs, but for a squad that played the maximum 31 games in the regular season, Zanna's 10+ minutes in the rotation were crucial to keep McGhee and Robinson fresh. With a combination of experienced players and a deep squad, this was the season seemed to favor Pittsburgh taking a deep NCAA run, with the Final Four a realistic possibility. The Panthers earned a #1 seed (West Region), but ran into a hot Butler squad in the second round, and suffered a one point loss, 71-70, in the second round.

(3T #5) St. John's

The double intersection...but in the wrong direction

Unlike Connecticut, Coach Steve Lavin's Johnnies' "double helix" trendline was curved in the wrong directions through the season. Stumbling into the Big East season with several unexpected out of conference losses, the veteran St. John's squad appeared to "get it" after hitting the bottom in the first half of the conference season (they were 4-5 through the first nine conference games). A strong run through the second half of the conference slate (a single loss Seton Hall in game #17 capped an 8-1 run through the last nine conference games). Though DJ Kennedy had not yet ended his career with an injury, the Johnnies were already showing signs of a late season slump. Dwight Hardy, a wing complement to Kennedy, was already having problems scoring efficiently, relying more on volume shooting to meet his quota for points in the St. John's system. Kennedy's injury hastened the Red Storm's exit from the Big East Tournament (a semi-final loss to Syracuse after eliminating Rutgers in the quarter-final round), and set the stage for a bookend loss to a West Coast Conference team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. St. John's opened the early season ESPN-sponsored television marathon in November with a televised loss Gonzaga's conference mate, St. Mary's.

(3T #3) Syracuse

Evidence of a mid-season slump...

Few expected the Orange to have a season like 2010, but Coach Beoheim's squad managed to exceed the consensus predictions for their conference record. After a solid 12-6 conference record and pull down a double-bye (a #3 seed) for the Big East Tournament. Having weathered a mid-season slump (their record in games #6 through #14 was 3-6), the Orange seemed to be poised for a deep post season run in the Big East Tournament, if not the NCAAs. Syracuse was eliminated in the semi-final round at Madison Square Garden by a streaking Connecticut team (76-71). The Selection Committee did them no favors in the NCAAs when they matched them with conference mate Marquette in the second round. Despite being favored, the Orange lost by four to Buzz Williams' Golden Eagles, 66-62.


Anonymous said...

Nice writeup for this series; I'm really glad that my methodology has been used on an established site, and it's cool to see it applied for another conference. It really showed the parity in the Big East IMO, as the top three in the Big Ten had a positive adjusted efficiency margin for pretty much the whole year, while only Pitt did in the Big East.

-Alex @ Maize-Colored Glasses

greyCat said...

Alex -- I enjoyed your writeup and was curious to see what it could tell me about the Big East season. Will probably apply it to the Atlantic 10 Conference shortly (I follow that conference as well). Will be interesting to see what it can tell me about a non-BCS conference.

A few of us who follow the Big East have wondered through much of the season whether the conference could/would get 11 bids. I had argued several times that it would require a number of things to happen "just right"...which appears to have happened this season. Was disappointed to see Pittsburgh (and Notre Dame) go out so early though.

I have enjoyed your work at Maize-Colored... for a while now. I believe that parity is

Anonymous said...

Thank you sir, I'll agree that seeing it done for a non-BCS conference would be interesting, as differences between BCS and non-BCS conferences could be highlighted this way.

You nailed it on the head with the 11 bids part, as the Big East was really helped by the parity in the conference. The Big Ten's problem was that Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin would beat all of the middling teams, and while those teams were all good in their own right, four teams finished 9-9 in part to almost automatic losses from the big three.

Looking back, it's disappointing to see the best teams go out, but OSU's relatively early exit was extremely baffling to me as they'd posted a really good margin with a strong upward trend at the very end. I'm not complaining that their title hopes were dashed though :)

Here's something else you might find interesting: The efficiency margins are shown, and all together, it's a really fascinating graph.

I might try to apply this type of thinking to college football, but that might be a disaster.